"It all comes down to coaching," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said after Sunday night’s blowout loss to the Eagles. "Andy Reid was reading my mail. He kicked my ass. I've got to be smarter than this." The win advanced Reid to 13-0 in games played after the Eagles’ bye week.
Reid’s game plan involved attacking Ryan’s tendency to aggressively pursue with his front seven, leaving a nimble LeSean McCoy with the opportunity for cut-backs and change-of-direction runs.
Drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders due to his elite lateral agility, McCoy is “playing as well as any back in the league right now,” according to Reid. New offensive line coach Howard Mudd’s unit is starting to gel with LT Jason Peters returning from injury, Todd Herremans solidifying right tackle, and rookies Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce finally hitting their stride on the interior. "It's easy for a back to find a hole out there,” said McCoy, “when they're pushing the defensive line back five yards on every play.” Having overtaken Fred Jackson as fantasy’s No. 1 running back, McCoy is on pace for 309 carries, 1,723 rushing yards, 53 receptions, 315 receiving yards and 23 total scores through seven games.
Taking advantage of wide scrambling holes and passing lanes, Vick posted his most efficient performance since earning a new contract behind his record 99.8 Total QBR against the Redskins on Monday Night Football last season. Vick’s 90.1 Total QBR Sunday night was the second-highest since his release from prison, going 13-of-17 for 187 yards and two touchdowns through the air and adding 45 more yards on the ground when the game was still relatively close. His final numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Vick did the majority of his damage in just one half.
We advised last week on Twitter to buy low on Vick with the offensive line improving and his zero rushing scores likely to begin trending toward last year’s total of nine. His 264.6 passing yards and 60.3 rushing yards per game this season have both exceeded his 2010 equivalents. Vick is now on pace for a career-high shattering 4,233 passing yards, a career-high 25 passing touchdowns and 965 rushing yards.
Fun with On-Pace Numbers
Cam Newton / Steve Smith - Your No. 1 fantasy QB in total points at the mid-season mark is a rookie. Newton deserved a better fate against the Vikings, converting a clutch 4th-and-15 throw for 44 yards to Brandon LaFell to put the Panthers in position for the game-winning field goal with less than a minute remaining. His ensuing scramble would have set up 1st-and-goal from inside the 5-yard line if not for a questionable holding call on Smith. As it turned out, Olindo Mare blew a 31-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.
With 290 yards and a career-high three passing scores, Newton joined Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford as the only rookie QBs since 1960 with five 250-yard passing games. “He is good,” NFL sack leader Jared Allen told Yahoo’s Michael Silver Sunday night. “Scary when he gets out of the pocket.” The 2011 No. 1 overall pick is on pace to demolish the rookie passing record with 4,786 yards, 22 touchdowns, 638 rushing yards and an NFL record 14 rushing scores. Smith remains the NFL’s leader in receiving yards, on pace to threaten Jerry Rice’s single-season record of 1,848 yards.
Ben Roethlisberger / Mike Wallace - The Steelers ditched their power-running, big-play passing attack to beat the Patriots at their own game with short throws to exploit the soft underbelly of the defense while maintaining a marked advantage in time of possession. Playing keep away from Tom Brady, Big Ben held the ball for more than 39 minutes while his 36 completions (to nine different receivers) and 50 attempts were each the second-most he’s posted in a single game.
After starting the season with a 3:5 TD-to-INT ratio through four games, Roethlisberger has posted an 11:2 ratio in the past four contests. Trailing only Brady (99), Roger Staubach (99) and Ken Stabler, ESPN Stats & Info points out that Roethlisberger (106) is the fourth-fastest QB to 75 wins. Now seventh among fantasy QBs, Big Ben is on pace for a career-high 4,608 yards and 28 touchdowns while Wallace is on pace for an 86/1,600/10 line.
Matthew Stafford / Calvin Johnson - Detroit’s 45 points were the franchise’s most on the road in 45 years. The constrast between a dangerously efficient Stafford and inaccurate turnover machine Tim Tebow was stark, as borne out by the 91.3 difference in their Total QBRs -- the highest among two opposing QBs this season. Powered by a first-half mark of 16-of-22 for 191 yards, two scores, and 11 first downs, Stafford recorded the highest Total QBR (94.6) of his career. His breakout season is now on pace for 4,358 yards and a 38:12 TD-to-INT ratio. Joining Randy Moss (2007) as the only players with 11 touchdowns through eight games, Megatron is on pace for a 94/1,608/22 line as fantasy’s No. 1 receiver.
Eli Manning - The past month may be the most impressive stretch of Eli’s career. He hasn't been picked in four of his past five starts while racking up 11 touchdowns. His 45 attempts against the Dolphins Sunday are the second-most of his career without throwing an interception. The Giants’ schedule gets tougher from here with the Patriots, 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Packers and Cowboys on the docket over the next six weeks, though Manning’s numbers should survive just fine as long as Hakeem Nicks’ hamstring injury isn’t serious. Eli is on pace for a career-high 4,862 yards and 30 touchdowns as fantasy’s No. 7 QB in points per game.
Fred Jackson - If Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy hadn’t attended tiny Coe College in Iowa before moving on to graduate studies at Harvard, Jackson might still be trapped in a bottom-rung indoor league. Six years after landing a tryout with the Bills and a season in NFL Europe, F-Jax has become the first Bills runner to go over 1,000 scrimmage yards in the first seven games since Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas in 1991. Carrying the Bills offense over the past month, Jackson is on pace for 302 carries, 1,648 rushing yards, 62 receptions, 807 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns and a 5.46 yards per carry average.
Steven Jackson - One of the game’s true warriors on a string of going-nowhere Rams squads, S-Jax was the inspirational leader in the unthinkable upset over the Saints. Jackson got SI.com’s Peter King so fired up that he wanted to hit Rodney Harrison. He wouldn’t allow teammates to lose focus, at one point getting in LT Rodger Saffold’s face after a false-start penalty. The linebacker-sized feature back cleared 150 yards with two scores for the first time since 2008 while passing Marshall Faulk for third on the franchise’s career yardage list. Now healthy after an early-season quad injury, Jackson is averaging 5.3 yards per clip while on pace for 1,216 total yards and 11 scores.
Frank Gore - After gashing the Browns defense for 134 yards, Gore joined O.J. Simpson (1975), Terrell Davis (1998) and Larry Johnson (2005) as the only backs with four consecutive games of 125+ yards and a touchdown. His current streak is the longest of consecutive 100-yard performances by a 49ers back since Garrison Hearst in 1998. Rolling into another attractive matchup against the Redskins, Gore is on pace for a 320/1,543/11 rushing line.
Adrian Peterson - The coaching staff discussed increasing Peterson’s passing-game contributions last week as a way to boost offensive efficiency. The result was five catches for a career-high 76 receiving yards as Peterson took advantage of the room to roam underneath provided by a mobile quarterback. Since rookie Christian Ponder took the reins two games ago, Peterson is averaging 168.5 scrimmage yards per game. To go with seven scores in his past four games, Peterson is on pace for a 334/1,596/18 rushing line. There’s not another player I’d rather own the rest of the way.
Tight Ends - With the exception of a two-game minislump in Weeks 3 and 4, Fred Davis has cleared 80 yards in every game. The breakout TE1 is on pace for an 82/1,182/5 line as fantasy’s No. 4 tight end. … Jimmy Graham’s on-pace numbers “dropped” to 98 receptions, 1,426 yards, and 10 touchdowns after a 39-yard outing against the Rams. … Rob Gronkowski lost a Week 8 touchdown due to a bad call, but he’s still on pace for an 82/1,131/11 line as fantasy’s No. 2 tight end.